The image of a leisurely cafe society thriving in Britain as global warming increases is an illusion, a climate change expert warned on Wednesday. Prof Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the British government and local authorities were failing to grasp the risks of global warming in which heatwaves will kill vulnerable people.
People were wrong to focus on the chance of warmer evenings, rather than realising heatwaves will cause deaths, added Prof Anderson. "We may like to think of it as a nice cafe culture, sitting outside sipping lattes - but we will be struggling to sleep because our buildings won't cool down at night. That's when you see the deaths occurring."
The Met office predicts that summer temperatures will rise by up to 5C (9F) by 2080. Heatwaves, like the one that killed 2,000 people in 2003, could become more frequent. Prof Anderson pointed out that buildings and hospitals are not equipped for these temperatures.
Calling on politicians to "bite the bullet" by upgrading houses to improve ventilation and making sure hospitals are prepared for illnesses caused by heat, Anderson said, flooding could become more frequent because of rising sea levels and more intense rainfall. Last year was the wettest on record and the Met Office has warned that the frequency of extreme rainfall may already be increasing. Also, councils must improve drainage in cities and ensure homes are prepared for flooding and not built on flood plains.
He said that a priority for Britain was to slow the speed of climate change, and prevent temperatures reaching dangerous levels, by reducing carbon emissions. While recommending investment in public transport and renewable energy, Anderson said, "We are not talking about many, many generations away," he added. "We are talking about our own lifetimes and the lives of our children."
The Met office climate change predictions for the government have forecast temperatures in Britain will increase from the 1961 to 1990 average of 10 to 17C in the summer to 15 to 22C by 2080.
New Quango for Solar Superstorm
A new quango is needed to help Britain withstand a "solar superstorm", experts said. The Royal Academy of Engineering has recommended setting up a Space Weather Board to supervise government strategy for coping with a massive radiation blast from the Sun that could trigger blackouts, knock out one in 10 satellites, and disrupt aircraft and shipping navigation.
Solar superstorms occur around once every 200 years. The last was in 1859.